Ford Jacks Up F-150 Lightning Production Target
Ford seems to be more and more aware that the future is electric, and much of that seems to be coming from consumer demand. This has got to be one of the most uplifting cleantech stories of recent months here in the USA.
A few short months ago, Ford increased its annual production target for the F-150 Lightning electric pickup from 40,000 to 80,000. That still seemed a bit meager for what should be one of the best electric pickup trucks on the market, and it was. Ford CEO Jim Farley tweeted today that the strong customer demand for the F-150 Lightning had inspired them to up the target significantly yet again, this time to 150,000 sales a year!
In Sept., due to huge demand for #F150Lightning, we doubled our production plan from 40k to 80k trucks per year.
The demand keeps growing, so we're doubling it again and now plan to produce 150,000 annually.
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) January 4, 2022
Note that the previous target was rumored to be for 2023, but others have heard 2024, and Farley has not clarified. (I’m reaching out to try to get an answer on this now as well.) Either way, perhaps there’s time to increase the target again! (Recall that Tesla Cybertruck production has been pushed off a couple of times and is not expected to hit high production volumes until 2023 either.) Update: Ford’s Emma Bergg has responded that they are aiming to reach a run rate of 150,000/year by the middle of 2023.
We're ramping up to a run rate of 150,000 per year by mid-2023.
— Emma Bergg (@ebergg) January 4, 2022
For Americans, it’s also good to see that the F-150 Lightning will indeed be built in Michigan.
At the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) January 4, 2022
High Demand for Ford Mustang Mach-E …
As I noted previously, in the summer of 2022, I got the scoop from a very solid source that LG Energy Solution was increasing its battery cell production for the Ford Mustang Mach-E significantly. The somewhat unsolicited tip was that the factory in Poland that produces its batteries had just ramped up the production rate considerably, to ~5000 cells per day. That translated to well over 100,000 vehicle battery packs a year — perhaps even 175,000 — which was well beyond the company 50,000 target for 2021. As surprising as the jump was, it was also clearly logical. There had been reports for months that the Mustang Mach-E was in such high demand and supplies so limited that some dealers were jacking up the price by $5,000, $10,000, or even $15,000. That seems to still be happening (though, perhaps not to that highest level).
The bottom line is this: there’s a lot of demand for the Ford Mustang Mach-E, there’s not enough supply to meet that demand, and so auto dealers are able to charge well above MSRP and still make the sale. Ford knows this isn’t a great thing. Or is a great thing, just with a dirty lining. So, it raise its production goal to 70,000 a year … and then jacked it up significantly to 200,000 a year in 2023! (My finding over in Poland didn’t seem so crazy any more.)
… and F-150 Lightning
I assume the good folk at Ford don’t love stories about auto dealers adding $10,000 and $15,000 markups to popular new electric vehicles, and thus decided to try to avoid this problem with the F-150 Lighting. They could have waited to be sure there was real, solid demand for an electric version of the company’s iconic truck — the top selling light-duty passenger automobile on the planet. Or they could be brave and increase production goals to Tesla levels.
Of course, apparent demand has been so high for the electric Ford truck that Ford stopped taking reservations for it in December 2021 when they reached 200,000 reservations. Instead, it shifted to taking only actual orders. That must’ve helped to show the company how much true demand was out there for the Lightning, and it seems the head honchos liked what they saw.
There is still plenty of room for improvement at Ford (even higher sales targets and lower costs would be great), but the outlook is much brighter today than it was a year ago. Naturally, one year ago, many of us who follow the EV market closely would have told you (or did actually say) that Ford could easily sell 150,000+ F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks each year if it tried. In fact, I venture to say that this is still a woefully low target. But let’s focus on the positive side of the news now. Increasing an electric pickup’s annual sales target from 80,000 to 150,000 (or from 40,000 to 150,000) is a solid step forward! Even better than rock solid, if you know what I mean. Chevy, where you at?
One More Thing …
Perhaps this is too obvious, but there’s one more thing I’d like to point out. If the CEO of Ford is out there stating a nearly doubled production target (or a quadrupled production target if you look back a little further) and seemingly trying to get a lot of attention for it, that implies the battery supplies are locked up. If the battery supplies are locked up, that means battery production companies can put in clear, solid orders for the key minerals that are needed for those batteries — lithium, nickel, etc. If you’ve been following CleanTechnica closely for a while, you know that one of my largest concerns related to speeding up the adoption of clean technologies critical to stopping global heating is that battery mineral mines need a long time to get started (several years) and there don’t seem to be enough solid orders in place to ramp up mining to the degree that is needed and seems to be warranted by tech adoption curves and EV sales. Mining companies need firm orders from battery cell production companies, but battery cell production companies need firm orders from automobile production companies, and there are just too many loose commitments along that strand.
That said, a public statement of a company goal is not the same as a firm purchase order. One of the challenges leading to the above problem has been loose requests/”orders” that battery producers don’t treat as serious enough, and lack of a secured battery supply chain. However, Ford has been clear about its production targets in the past and has hit them. To me, Jim Farley putting his name behind the target in a very public way and hyping Ford’s electrification push in specific terms means that the BEV team underneath him is doing all of the legwork necessary to make the reality greater than the hype. In fact, that seems to be what Ford’s been doing since launching Team Edison — exceeding expectations around its electric efforts. It appears that Ford has the electric bug.
Unsurprisingly, investors are enthused about the news and the new direction, as Ford’s stock price (NYSE:F) is up 11.48% today as I type this.